Elgol – 24 May 2022

Today we finally made it to Elgol.

That strange place where the road leads to the sea and stops there. When the light is right and the Cuillins are lit by it it’s magical. Also when the light is poor, it’s mystical, seeing the mountains appear and disappear as the clouds break. Whatever the weather, you can turn your back on the crammed car parks, the pop-up coffee booths, the stalls selling trips out on RIBs to the islands and be somewhere else. Unfortunately there are masses of people arrive here, stop and say “Is that IT?” “Is this why we drove for miles and miles along a single track road in the rain, to see some mountains and some sea?” YES! “There’s not even a decent chip shop” NO! That’s part of its charm. Have I given you the impression that, I like Elgol?

It is a long drive from Staffin. All the way south to Broadford on the ‘main’ road. Then onto the single track road out to the west to Elgol. It’s around 55 miles and takes about one and a half hours. Going back it’s another 55 miles and another hour and a half because there is no alternative route. We stopped for petrol in Portree on the way down and drove down to just past Broadford where we stopped at Loch Cill Chriosd. A lovely quiet spot with beautiful views on a good day and today was a good day. There’s an old ruin of a church there, the Church of Kilchrist, but I was more interested in the landscape round the loch which is almost covered with rushes. On a day with little wind, the loch produces beautiful reflections. It was almost perfectly still today, although there was a shower of rain. Photos taken we pressed on to Elgol.

It was really busy. Cars and vans of the camper variety parked everywhere and anywhere. Scamp saw a likely place to park up near the village hall. There was one space left. Luckily we only had one car. She took some photos and then went to the village hall which had a tea shop beside it. I’d remembered my boots this time, so I headed down to the ‘beach’. As I’ve said before ‘beach’ is a misnomer. There’s no way you could erect your deck chair on this beach with rocks that are graded from fist sized stones to man sized boulders (or should that be ‘person sized?). However, those boulders didn’t stop a bridal party in suits and sticky-out white dress tying the knot beside the big eroded cliff! I was a bit peeved at first because that was one of the spots I wanted to photograph, but they were there first and I was only a nuisance photog who would have to be photoshopped out of their photos later.

The weather was jsut perfect and I got the photos I wanted with the equipment I wanted to use. I’d brought my old 10-20mm Sigma ultra-wide lens, fitted on the A6000 camera. It’s a really good lens that only works in manual these days, but I don’t mind that because it produces such good results. I’d brought the A7iii and kit lens as well, but having both meant I didn’t have to swap lenses. Someone had been thoughtful enough to sail a three masted sailing ship into position below one of the mountains as an extra little interest point.
After a while I’d taken all the photos I wanted and headed back up the steep hill to the tea shop where I thought Scamp would be waiting, but she was off on her own climbing a hill to another viewpoint, but had seen me and come back down again. I know now that we should have walked back up to the viewpoint, but honestly I was knackered with climbing that hill. A cup of tea helped and then we drove back those 55 miles to the house.

Earlier in the day we’d said goodbye to June and Ian who were off in the morning with Jackie to catch the bus that would take them down to Glasgow. I didn’t really envy them the trip, with their first, and only, stop in Fort William. Then the next half of the journey to Glasgow itself, then another bus to Cumbersheugh. In another way I did envy them the ability to just sit there in relative comfort instead of having to drive down the road. That’s what we’d have to do tomorrow.

We’d been invited to Jackie and Murdo’s for dinner. It was a reasonably comfortable night, so we just walked down to Burnside. I was cautious with my alcohol intake because I knew I was driving us home the next day. Scamp got the offer of a dress for the next wedding from Jackie, an offer she couldn’t or wouldn’t refuse, so we carried that back to the house later. We’d still a few things to pack, so with that done we went to bed, because tomorrow was going to be a long day.

PoD just had to be Elgol!

The only plan for tomorrow was to stop at Columba for a slice or two of the wedding cake, then drive, drive, drive.

Off to the big city – 19 May 2022

Today we set off to visit the big city – Portree.

As usual on our first full day on the island, we set off on an anticlockwise tour of the island. The first half is the most scenic, hugging the east and north coast of the island on mostly single track roads. We met a few ‘Zoomers’ as usual. The ones who want to travel at 20mph to get a good view of the scenery, completely ignoring the signs that suggest that you use the passing places to allow faster travellers to pass you. They are just lazy or are so entranced by the views that they forget that other people behind them may need to catch a ferry, or be in a certain place by a certain time. Worse, though are the ones who own the road. They too ignore the passing places and just drive straight towards you and try to hustle you off ‘their’ road. They are the dangerous ones. We met both kinds today. We also met a herd of cattle, not ‘Highland’ cattle, just ordinary beasts with their calves running around their heels. Some tiny wee calves too. “Dog sized” was Scamp’s description and it was very true, they must have been fairly recently born.

We did the full circuit of the island and stopped at Jan’s Vans for lunch. It was extra busy today with many people walking round this hardware emporium holding buzzers that would call them when their table was ready. We didn’t have too long to wait until ours buzzed and we got seated at table 10. It was a 20 minute waiting time for food, but that didn’t bother us because we weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. I ordered “The Works” which is the middle sized All Day Breakfast. I’ve never been quite hungry enough for The Full Works. Maybe some day. Scamp, of course had Macaroni ’n’ Cheese with chips. We did have to wait about the full 20mins, but it was worth it. We followed it with coffee for me and peppermint tea for Scamp with two of the worst pineapple cakes I’ve ever had. Extra thick pastry base and a tiny teaspoon of pineapple and an equal amount of cream. Not good enough, Jan’s Vans!

Three German blokes asked a waitress for the wifi password while I was in the queue for the coffee. The girl rattled off the “TheRedBrickCafe” and was about to turn away when one asked her “Could we have that in English now?” Luckily she laughed and wrote it down for them. We forget just how quickly we speak in Scotland. There were three American ladies in front of me in the same queue, all asking questions: How hot is the chilli? Is the salad vegetarian or vegan? What kind of coffee do you use? Then a man sidled up and I thought he was going to jump the queue, but in a mid-western drawl he said “I hope you don’t mind, I’m with them.” pointing to the ladies. I said Ok, I’d trust him … this time. He half smiled and said “I have to authenticate”, and showed me his credit card. He was paying!

After we left with a couple of new cups and two microwave safe bowl for breakfast, we went to the Co-op and then home by the usual east side road. Stopping at Staffin Slip to check out the new hardcore that’s been added to the slip to provide a base for a new terminal there. Took a few photos there, but there are so many mobile homes parked there now, it’s difficult to get a clear landscape view. Driving back to the house, we caught a glimpse of the marquee that’s been erected for Saturday.

June and Ian arrived tonight after having had dinner with Jackie and Murdo. Scamp and Jackie had a long discussion about dresses and fascinators an combination fascinators and hats. Strange concoction!

Later Mairi who owns the house dropped in with a cake and some fresh eggs. Again we sat and talked. When she left, I took the two Sonys out and got today’s PoD.

Not sure what’s happening tomorrow. No firm plans made.

Emptying bags – 18 May 2022

There’s not much you can say about driving 250ish miles with a couple of stops.

Actually it was a fairly pleasant drive up through the west highlands to Fort William where we stopped for lunch and essentials like beer, wine and prosecco, and also to take on some really expensive petrol. Not the most expensive petrol we saw, because further on in our journey at Loch Cluanie we found an out of the way hotel with petrol on sale for £1.99 per litre!

We passed Eilean Donan Castle, but didn’t stop although a lot of folk did pause to photograph the biscuit tin castle that isn’t nearly as old as it looks. No, we went on over the bridge which has lost some of its elegance with a new conveyer belt stretching out to a deep water mooring for ships to take on what looks like gravel from an excavation. Such a pity. I’d still photograph it if the light was right and then just photoshop out the offending structure. We made our second stop near Loch Ainort to photograph the falls. They weren’t as impressive as they sometimes are, but it wasn’t raining and there was the opportunity to get the camera out of the bag and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance! It’s a long time, and many cameras ago, since I last took pictures of them. That became PoD.

We didn’t bother to stop in Portree, but carried on to Digg and pulled up at Jackie and Murdo’s house around 5.30pm. Not a bad time after leaving home about 10.45am. A cup of coffee in the house and time for Scamp and her sister to catch up on preparations for Jaki’s wedding. Just a quick stop to break our journey before we drove to the cottage. Our holiday home for a week.

Just had time to start unpacking all those bags and then we walked down to J&M’s, which is barely 200m from the cottage, for dinner. After dinner and after Murdo had shooed off his brother and his sister in law, we sat in the living room, me with a glass of very nice Johnnie Walker Black Label and Scamp and sister with a G ’n’ T, while Murdo took up station in the kitchen watching Rangers ultimately lose the championship 5-4 on penalties. Such a terrible way to lose. We spoke to Mairi later and she had us in stitches with her stories of the bride and the bridesmaids antics getting a spray tan for the wedding. A spray tan in Skye?

We left later and made our way back to the cottage, were I’m writing this.

Tomorrow we may make our usual journey round the top of the island and down to Portree. The big city!

 

A day at the seaside – 17 January 2022

What better place to be on a bright and not too cold January day, than on a Scottish beach?

Scamp wanted to go to the seaside today, to the seaside on the east coast. That’s why we packed up the car with photo gear and drove across the country to Aberdour and down a road that led to the Silver Sands.

The Silver Sands are well named, because the smooth greyish sand does sparkle in a silvery way when the sun shines on it, and the sun was shining today. We drove down a narrow road with monumental potholes, unavoidable in places. If you missed one with the left tyre, the right tyre found its neighbour. Luckily it wasn’t a long drive and we got parked easily in an enormous carpark, one of about four as far as we could see. From there we walked down to the beach and those sands. I don’t know if they sweep that beach every morning, but it was perfectly smooth and not a lot of litter showing either.

We walked along the beach in one direction, and then in the opposite direction. We saw one girl wearing tee shirt and shorts paddling almost knee deep in the sea … in January (??) I thought at first she was just a child, but as we got closer to the family group, it became obvious that she was a bit older than that, and possibly crazy. Who in their right mind would go wading into the water at this time of year? Well, the answer came when we walked back in the other direction. Two girls waded out of the water, but they were dressed for it in wet suits and with those fluorescent buoyancy aids wild water swimmers trail behind themselves.

We left them to their exercise and headed for the cafe for a coffee and a bite to eat. Panini for me and a tub of chips for Scamp with two coffees to wash them down. The cafe was remarkably busy given the fact that it was a weekday and mid January, but I suppose it’s only the second decent day we’ve had for a long while. I imagine this place will be mobbed in the summer. We both agreed that we’ll come back and find out.

We drove back and got completely lost following the sat nav that was supposed to be taking us in the direction of Stirling. Instead it was determined to take us via Kincardine, so we eventually agreed to go with it. I thought we might stop for a photo opportunity at Torryburn, but the low sun was shining right in our faces and a low mist was obscuring what scenic view there might have been. We drove home.

Well, we drove home via B&Q to get some fixings to make that pedestal I spoke about. Our B&Q is a bit run down. It’s in a retail park where the only store that anyone goes to is Halfords. All the rest are carpet shops or cheaply made furniture sold at about twice what they’re worth. We are getting a new retail park with a cinema, a bowling alley, a hotel, restaurants and, well, anything you could want. It’ll be ready in early …. That’s the problem. It’s just a pipe dream and I’m not sure what they’re smoking in that pipe, but the story is convincing nobody. So, our B&Q had the corner connectors, but no screws to fit them. A do it yourself store that can’t do anything itself. We drove home.

That was about it for the day. I had a look at the photos I’d taken today and they looked pretty good. The new toy does take very nice photos. A view from Aberdour looking over to Edinburgh got PoD. I think Scamp really enjoyed that walk along the beach today. It certainly seemed to lift her spirits. It was a lovely beach and great views across the estuary to Edinburgh. I think it’s on our list of places to go back to.

Tomorrow looks like a return to dull, cloudy weather with the chance of rain for a while. I’ve got some woodwork to do, so that might keep me busy and we might get out for a walk later. We got a message from the couple who run our dance class to test the water for a return to class soon. Let’s hope things are opening up again. We’ll know more when Nick the Chick gives her proclamation tomorrow.

Strictly a dancing day – 12 November 2021

But first a visit to the doc’s to hear the bad news.

I needn’t have worried. For the first time in years, there was no bad news from the nurse about my annual checkup. She went over my numbers and basically everything was fine. Ok, my weight was a bit higher than ideal, but as she said, “everyone has put on weight over the last year.” I left feeling much better than I had when I went in. Isn’t that what doctors surgeries are meant to do?

Next step was to collect together our latest ‘Small Electrical’ devices and take them on a one way trip to the skips. It was just small things like the old coffee grinder which would no longer switch on. Also my hard working Nexus 7 tablet. Nine years old and still working … well, it really depends what you expect from ‘working’. If you mean that you switch it on and it works, then it’s working. However those who want it to work about thirty seconds after pressing the power button and to keep working for at least five minutes after the screen appears, might be disappointed. I was one of the latter group. It had to go. It’s been replaced by a new Lenovo 8” tablet that is doing everything I expect from a tablet, except taste sugary, but that’s probably a different kind of tablet! The last thing to go was a half bottle of white spirit that I kept meaning to chuck out just for safety reasons. It, too, has now left the building. With all that done and after handing over an arm and a leg for a tank full of petrol, we were ready to go to Perth.

Drove up to a dull, dreich Perth, surely not how it was going to be this weekend? The hotel did nothing to lift my spirits. Allegedly the oldest established hotel in Scotland, it had hosted Bonnie Prince Charlie as a guest back in 1745 and I think it has been painted since then, maybe only once. Just a typical old, old hotel that’s like a maze inside. Ours was a tiny wee room with a lovely view of the carpark and the back of a tenement, but that wasn’t important. We were there to dance.

The was a table plan to consult as we went in to the ballroom and four dancers were already seated when we found our table. Standoffish? Just a bit. Condescending? Just a bit. Who cares, we were there to enjoy the dancing, not the company.

Dinner tonight was typical hotel food, I chose Melon with Midori as a starter, then Haggis Stuffed Chicken as my main course with Meringue and Fresh Fruit for pudding. Typical hotel food! Scamp’s starter was also Melon  but she had a main of Sweet & Sour Vegetables which apparently tasted brilliant. Pudding was a Sticky Toffee one.

With dinner over, dancing began and we threw ourselves in and had a great night. Not great dancing until the opportunity came for a bit of Salsa. Six of us could dance Cuban salsa and about six others who took to the floor danced ballroom salsa. I didn’t get a chance to see what their dancing was like, I was too busy dancing salsa.

By midnight I was totally beat, physically, as was Scamp, but we were both buzzing when we struggled through the maze to go to bed.

PoD was a photo taken in the afternoon, through the bedroom window of the backside of Perth!

Early start tomorrow for a dance lesson then an afternoon free before the formal dance at night.

Walking on the railroad – 12 September 2021

Today we went for a walk along the old railway from Kirkby Stephen to somewhere else.  A place called Nateby, where the railway path stops and a real steam railway takes over.

Parked at the school in Kirkby Stephen and walked through a closed town.  Nothing open. Well, it was Sunday.

We walked along a path we’d taken last year and using muscle memory as our guide, found our way up on to the path of the railway and along two of the three viaducts and on until we found the third viaduct which our path ran parallel to. We should probably have walked under it to complete the trilogy and take a look at the steam railway, but instead we followed the river downstream through two fields. The second field had disinterested sheep in it. They looked, saw us and went back to eating the grass. At the end of the track we found a totally unintelligible  sign written in legalese which seemed to say that we had to go back. We did what I always do in a situation like this. We followed the path and ignored the sign. If you can’t write English in England then don’t write this gibberish. Found our way back to Kirkby Stephen and from there back to the car.

Back at the house we arrived before the other two and grabbed the garage again.

I was chef for the night and I made the worst paella I’ve made in a long time. Really difficult to make a meal to serve 4 when you’re used to making it for 2. It’s not simply a case of doubling the ingredients. Also, trying to use someone else’s cooker didn’t help. Those are excuses, not reasons. As my dad would have said, Covered Lies. I will make something better next time.

Watched more Spitting Image tonight. Some episodes funnier than others.

PoD was a symphony of greens taken on the walk along the old railway.

Scamp may go looking for a pair of boots tomorrow as hers are hurting her feet.

Brough Castle revisited – 11 September 2021

First day walk about.

We drove into Kirkby Stephen which is the nearest town and parked at the main carpark beside the auction mart. Carpark was really busy, even for a Saturday, but we found a space. The church bells were ringing and we assumed it was a wedding. Lots of well dressed people heading for the church and that’s what initially gave Scamp the inkling that it wasn’t a wedding. They weren’t dressed for a wedding apparently. It turned out it was it was a memorial for a woman called Joan Johnstone who was an important local Councillor.

We walked over Frank’s Bridge. Not a clue who Frank was, then around the cricket pitch looking for the path to take us up to the viewpoint on the hill which sort of overlooks the town. Eventually found that I’d led us the wrong way. How strange! 😏. We walked back, but couldn’t find any place to have lunch. Everywhere was full or closed. Presumably so the owners could get to the memorial service. Scamp got ten allium bulbs from the same shop we bought last year’s bulbs from and they turned out so well. With that done we chose to drive to Brough to see if it was open today.

Brough wasn’t nearly as big as Kirkby Stephen. It seemed to comprise of two streets at right angles to each other and a whole host of scarecrows. Lots of the houses had these, sometimes creepy, statues outside. We didn’t stop, but we did find a sign pointing to Brough Castle which we’d visited many years ago. When we stopped there on the way home from a visit down south we had lunch at the tea shop there and today we were happy to see it was still there. There were loads of scarecrows in the surrounding streets too, but not as creepy as the ones in Brough. After coffee and a warm, but not hot, panini each we went for a walk round the castle. The views from it were excellent and all under a blue sky with bubbly clouds too. I took lots of photos and so did Scamp. We walked round the village next and took in the Scarecrow Festival, because that’s what it was.

PoD was a view of Brough Castle with a few sheep and a horse to fill up that empty green space.

Jamie and Simonne were cooking tonight. Beetroot falafels with a green salad – we must try that.

Watched the strange new qualifying for F1 tonight understood it a bit more than last time.  Then we watched a few episodes of Spitting Image which was repeats on Britbox and therefore slightly out of sync with life in 2021, but still funny.

Tomorrow we may go for a longer walk along the viaduct path.

 

Driving – 10 September 2021

Feeling a lot better this morning. No sign of yesterday’s Lurgi.

We got in the car and drove to the petrol station to buy some extremely expensive petrol that only had 5% of Ethanol in it. Better the devil you know when you’re on a fairly long journey, carrying half a tonne of stuff.

Drove out of the petrol station, still smarting from the expense and joined the M80 heading in the general direction of Glasgow. Merged on to the M73 which in turn merged on to the M74. Drove sedately past the roadworks at Hamilton that are due to finish in October (year not stated), watching the train of cars, vans and lorries on the other carriageway, a train that went on and on and on. Made a mental note to exit the motorway at Canderside on our return journey and not be caught in a stramash like this.

After a hundred miles or so, Scotland became England and the M74 became the M6. Exited at Penrith and then it was on to the smaller A66. Just before the exit, the Start/Stop app in the car signalled a System Failure. This had happened before and I reported it to Nissan at the service a week ago. I was told then that the Start/Stop “… Checks a lot of parameters …” Which was technospeak for “It just does that, we can’t fix it”. Another Nissan failure on an otherwise great car.

Not long after we left the outskirts of Penrith, we were on a stretch of road which should have been dual carriageway, but was under repair, so it became a slow moving single carriageway. Just after what seemed like an hour, but was probably a lot less, we took the turn off that eventually led through narrower and narrower roads to the house. Actually overshot it, but Scamp noticed and we arrived. First to arrive again!

Cup of tea on the patio and a quick Foxtrot along the paving stones. I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone had danced a Foxtrot along that patio! Jamie and Sim weren’t far behind us, having left home long before us. Their’s a six hour journey and ours only about two. The world is ill divided.

PoD was to confirm that roses, even in England, have the same beasties we have up north. Honest, we didn’t bring them with us.
Scamp made Chicken Cacciatore for dinner and we all sat round the table, talked and ate.

Tomorrow we’re going exploring.

Stones – 22 July 2021

We were travelling into history today, our history.

Years ago we often drove down to the lakes for a long weekend when school permitted. Sometimes to Ambleside and sometimes Grasmere. Once when we were there we noticed an appeal for money to repair an old church in Grasmere that needed a new roof. If you paid a sum of money, can’t remember how much, you could have a paving stone engraved with your name laid on a path in a new garden near the church. We made the donation and got our stone laid, but when we went to see it, the path was only part completed. It seemed a shame to come all this way this year and not search for our stone in the garden in Grasmere. That’s where we headed today.

We knew it would be a long journey, but we hadn’t realised just how steep some of those climbs and descents would be. One descent in particular was 25%! We were just starting it when a girl on a road bike was cresting the rise, hardly out of breath. I admired her stamina getting up there. It wasn’t the most fun drive I’ve ever had and I’m sure Scamp wasn’t all that happy either, but we got there.

Grasmere was a lot busier than I remember it. Every car park seemed crammed full. However there was a notice on the exit of one that pointed to a new car park. We found it and it was nearly empty, I presume because it was on the far edge of the village. Didn’t matter, we were parked. There was a long queue to pay for a ticket, because everyone uses plastic these days and this machine didn’t seem to like that. It was rejecting cards right left and centre. I offered to try my luck with cash and four quid lighter I had my parking ticket for three hours. So, there was nothing wrong with the machine, it just didn’t like plastic!

We walked along a path beside the river and saw one of Mr Grey’s distant relatives fishing in one of the pools. The path came out just at the church and beside the church was the new garden, the Daffodil Garden, and the paving stones. The search was on.

Scamp was off like a shot and of course it was her who found the stone. Just as we remembered it. The entire path was finished now, all 3,000 of them. That’s a lot of money raised. After we’d photographed each other standing next to the stone, we left the garden to the others who were reading the names. The repairs to the church are still ongoing, but a lot has been done with the money.

We had lunch in a wee tearoom we used to sit in. Looked much the same as it did all those years ago. The couple who owned and ran it then have only recently sold it.

Scamp remembered another road home that didn’t involve climbing that 25% hill. I think it might have given the wee blue car a heart attack climbing it.

Back at the house it was an early dinner to allow JIC and Sim to get on the road. This was Neil D’s turn as chef again and it was Fried Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Beans. There was yet another group photo and a few tears when JIC and Sim took their leave.

I went for a last walk along the road and got a few landscape photos in the beautiful evening light. I think they are some of my favourite photos of the week. Back at the house I tried again for some shots of the moon, but none of them worked very well. One of the landscapes became PoD.

Tomorrow is the day we all dread. Packing up and going home.

Rosemary from the garden – 21 July 2021

Scamp wanted milk Sim wanted tonic JIC wanted rosemary, fresh preferably.

We drove down to Millom by the ‘high road’ which the sat nav doesn’t understand. Too small a road and with no road number. Once there we went to Tesco. Got the milk and some other stuff but no elderflower tonic to be found and no fresh rosemary.

Drove down to Broughton and parked down near the livestock market, then found the wee deli where we’d got the cherries earlier in the week. Woman said there might be rosemary in the chiller cabinet in the back of the shop. The guy who was serving went to look said if there wasn’t any there, he’s cut us a couple of sprigs from the garden. That’s good service. Scamp bought two bottles of wine and one of gin.

Came out and decided it was far too warm to walk anywhere, even through the avenue of trees to the pools we’d found a couple of days ago. Just came home by the new road and stopped at the bridge just before the zig zag through the farm. I realise that means nothing to everyone except those who have driven that narrow road. Got a few photos there of a couple wee cottages that stand by the side of a river, half covered by a stand of trees. One of those photos. Back in the car I though “Isn’t air-con a wonderful thing”!

Spent the rest of the day lounging around. Jamie made Fish with Carrot Chips and I made Cheesy Tear & Share bread. JIC and Sim are leaving tomorrow night. They have business to attend to at home and also it will be cooler driving in the evening.

I took some moody shots of the moon which was looking good tonight, but the midges were busy again so I didn’t linger.

May go looking for stones tomorrow.